In this distilled version of the 2014 Royal Court production, Tim Crouch explores our relationship with art and our sense of reality and what is ‘real’.
During the course of the production the fictional artist, Janet Adler, is woven into academia, exploited by the film industry and commodified by the art world. It’s at once a difficult and moving performance.
Tim Crouch is known for redrawing the lines between theatre and performance art, however the first section of the show is sparse and somewhat disorienting. We have an American art student reading out her final thesis about Janet Adler- an artist known for her rejection of the art world, someone who would rather eat her work then have it sold.
In the way that Janet Adler denies the art world her work, Crouch seems to deny the audience the theatre they’ve come for. This is reinforced when the art student asks for the next ‘slide’ in her presentation. Each slide is actually a performance that contributes to a separate story; the journey that two filmmakers go on in search of the home in which Janet Adler died. Except here too a naturalistic performance is resisted; the two actors face out to the audience and speak their lines without physically interacting.
At first it’s hard to make out what is happening but eventually the ears tunes in, and gradually the form begins to modulate into something more relaxed and less sterile. The filmmakers are Hollywood actress Louise and her acting coach Sam who have sought out the now dilapidated home Adler and her partner, Margaret Gibb. Louise and Sam are so intent on their research and in creating Adler’s biopic that they are willing to distort reality; exhume Adler’s grave for her diaries, kill her partner and her dog (itself a piece of art).
In the last modulation of form we see a film; the biopic of Alder and Gibb’s lives, but it doesn’t have the Hollywood glamour that Louise and Sam desired. The dilapidated house has truly let nature in; there are no people, there is no story. In stripping back layer upon layer we are moved further from reality but closer to an understanding of how lives and narratives are manipulated.
At times Adler and Gibb gets tangled in its own experiment in form but it’s an intelligent and thought-provoking play.
Adler and Gibb is on tour and currently plays at The Lowry, Manchester until 17 September.